Please explain the phrase, “my judgment” in 1 Corinthians 7:25 and 40. How could Paul be giving his opinion and also be inspired of God?
Some translations (such as the NASV) render the word judgment in this passage as “opinion.” There are others as well. Most speak of this “judgment.” But whether we use the word “judgment” or “opinion,” we are basically faced with the same question. Was Paul giving personal advice to these Corinthians? Was Paul stating his opinion? And if so, how can that be inspired of God?
In order to correctly understand God’s word, one of the things that we need to remember is that there are several recorded statements in the Bible of uninspired people. For example, when Satan said to Eve, “Thou shalt not surely die,” it was a lie. Note also that in Matthew 4:1-11 we find Satan tempting Jesus and uttering words. These are the words of Satan. Are they inspired? These lies that Satan spoke are recorded in the Bible, but that doesn’t mean that just because it is recorded in the Bible that the statement itself is true. It is recorded that Satan spoke it; that is, the fact of his making the statement is true and we can be sure of that, but the statements themselves are falsehoods spoken by Satan. So for something to be inspired doesn’t guarantee the truthfulness of quoted statements of others within the Bible. Inspiration merely guarantees the truthfulness that those statements were spoken by the person the Bible claimed to speak.
Similarly, sometimes in the Bible, we find opinions given by men. For example, in the case of Paul’s trial before Agrippa, Agrippa thought that Paul should have been set free (Acts 26:32). That was certainly Agrippa’s opinion, but it is recorded for us in the scriptures. Acts 26:32 is inspired in that it portrays an accurate representation of Agrippa’s opinion. We are guaranteed by God that these were the historical words that Agrippa said. However, the words that Agrippa spoke himself were not inspired words in and of themselves. The same could be said of Pilate and Festus as well.
The case with 1 Cor.7 is a little more difficult, because we are dealing with an inspired apostle. The weight of the opinion of an apostle is heavy. But, nevertheless, Paul said that he was speaking in matters of his own personal judgment. So we must respect that fact. It is guaranteed by inspiration to be a true representation of Paul’s own personal judgment. Paul was addressing a special situation in which the people of that time were under
“distress” (vs. 26). It is due to that distress that Paul gives his own opinion on how to deal with the question of marriage. The question as to whether to marry or not is ultimately always a judgment call. There is no biblical requirement to be married. So Paul is simply saying in this passage, “since we have some persecution going on, it would be better to
remain unmarried during this time as opposed to getting married and consequently facing the prospect of seeing your mate tortured.” So, did Paul give his opinion? Yes he did. Is this passage of scripture inspired? Yes, it is. It is inspired in the sense that we are guaranteed to have Paul’s opinion on this matter. Would that opinion be binding upon us today? If we were in similar circumstances then we would do well to heed his advice. However, we note that even in this context Paul says that it is better to marry than to burn (with passion) (1 Corinthians 7:9). So the context clearly indicates that we are dealing with Paul’s own personal opinion and advice, given the situation of persecution that was upon the church.